Did Jeannie just get hit with the vase that's on the ground? Did the approaching man do it, or is he trying to help? Is she happy or in shock? Suzanne Bennett's oil painting Jeannie Laughing immediately thrusts you into an open-ended moment, all the more jarring because of the familiar subject matter—"I Dream of Jeannie's" iconic leading lady.
Jeannie Laughing, part of a series based on stills from 1970s sitcoms and game shows, is a departure from Bennett's past work, which largely consists of dream-like paintings made up of multiple images spliced together. The slightly unhinging effect, though, is similar. "I love the idea that you're coming in on a moment in this story and you don't know what's happening," says Bennett. "It feels loaded." Rather than overtly yoking together disparate images, Bennett's sitcom series examines the slippery nature of perception through an emotional lens.
"I realized I had deep connections to the characters and the places from these television shows in my childhood," says Bennett. By portraying ambiguous moments from these nostalgia-laden sitcoms, though, Bennett simultaneously evokes a sense of familiarity and displacement. As paintings, Bennett says, the decontextualized televised moments take on new layers of meaning. "You can see the duality of a state of mind that you've taken for granted," she says. "[I'm] taking something familiar and putting it in a different light to show another side of the human experience."
Though Bennett currently lives in Brooklyn, she lived in Beacon for three years. Jeannie Laughing will be part of the bau 100+1 exhibit, a celebration of bau Gallery's 100th-consecutive monthly exhibition milestone, up from May 11 through June 2. An opening reception will be held on May 18, from 6 to 9pm.